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The Rolling Dance Chair, an omnidirectional, hands-free wheelchair

So often, knowing someone who deals with a challenge can help us become more empathetic and more aware of possible solutions for that challenge. Having grown up with a father who she felt was “boxed in” by his manual wheelchair, choreographer Merry Lynn Morris was inspired to invent an omnidirectional power wheelchair. It’s equipped with a rotating seat and can move in any direction hands-free, enabling dancers and others with disabilities to move more freely. From Science Friday:

To command the device, a user straps on a portable, wireless control—in this case, a cell phone—to a mobile part of her body, say the head or the upper back. When she leans in a desired direction, the phone detects the movement and instructs the chair to follow suit. (As far as Morris knows, there are no wireless power wheelchairs on the market; she has a U.S. patent on her chair’s technology.)…

Morris calls her invention the Rolling Dance Chair, and she’s been working on it for more than a decade, earning five patents in the process. To her, the chair is more than an accessibility device—it’s an opportunity to explore new dance techniques.

…and new uses outside of dance. Morris and her team (a programmer, a designer, and a fabricator) are working on a new version that they hope to make commercially available.

Next: The Kenguru Wheelchair-Accessible Electric Vehicle, a boy who gets his prosthetic hand made by 3-D printer, and technology that’s trying to make wheelchairs obsolete.

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